Report of the UN SG on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (S/2008/354)

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I. Introduction

1. The Security Council, by its resolution 1244 (1999), authorized the Secretary- General, with the assistance of relevant international organizations, to establish an international civil presence in Kosovo in order to provide an interim administration under which the people of Kosovo could enjoy substantial autonomy.

2. The present report is submitted to the Security Council following nine years of interim administration led by the United Nations, with the support of its key operational partners, including the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and United Nations agencies, funds and programmes. During those nine years, the international civil presence, known as the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), helped Kosovo make significant strides in establishing and consolidating democratic and accountable Provisional Institutions of Self-Government and in creating the foundations for a functioning economy. While there has been substantial progress in the implementation of standards, there remains scope for further improvement in certain areas, in particular in the field of the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. The full reconciliation and integration of Kosovo communities will be a long-term process and remains an uphill challenge that requires a genuine commitment by members of all of the communities.

3. On 3 April 2007, I submitted to the Security Council the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement (S/2007/168/Add.1), prepared by my Special Envoy for the Future Status Process for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari. The Council did not, however, endorse the proposal. Thereafter a 'Troika', comprising the European Union, the United States of America and the Russian Federation, facilitated additional intensive negotiations between the parties at the end of 2007. Those talks also ended without a consensual resolution of the status of Kosovo. On 17 February 2008, the Assembly of Kosovo held a session during which it adopted a declaration of independence in which it declared Kosovo an independent and sovereign State. The declaration received the support of 109 of the 120 members of the Assembly; the 10 Kosovo Serb members did not attend.

4. I immediately drew this development to the attention of the Security Council for its consideration. In doing so, I reaffirmed that, pending guidance from the Council, the United Nations would continue to operate on the understanding that resolution 1244 (1999) remained in force and that UNMIK would continue to implement its mandate in the light of the evolving circumstances. The Council took no position following the 17 February declaration. To date, 42 States Members of the United Nations have recognized the independence of Kosovo.

II. Developments on the ground

5. Following the declaration of independence, Serbia adopted a decision stating that the declaration represented a forceful and unilateral secession of a part of its territory. In addition, most Kosovo Serbs condemned the declaration of independence and took measures that pose serious challenges to the role of UNMIK in Kosovo. As an expression of their dissatisfaction, Kosovo Serbs expanded their boycott of Kosovo institutions to include the police, judiciary, transportation and municipal administrations. Kosovo Serb police officers in the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) have left their posts in several municipalities in southern Kosovo, while Kosovo Serbs in KPS in northern Kosovo have continued to report to UNMIK international police.

6. Kosovo Serbs have also expressed their dissatisfaction through protests, which have for the most part been held peacefully, although sporadic violence has occurred in northern Kosovo. On 19 February, small groups of Kosovo Serb protesters destroyed two Customs Service points on the Administrative Boundary Line, while on 14 March protesters forcefully seized the courthouse in northern Mitrovica. Subsequently, on 17 March, violent confrontation with UNMIK police and the Kosovo Force occurred during a police operation launched to reassert control over the courthouse. UNMIK is making efforts to restore customs at the Administrative Boundary Line and to enable the court in Mitrovica to operate.

7. A new reality and challenges to UNMIK authority are also emerging on the ground in Kosovo Albanian majority areas. On 9 April, the Assembly of Kosovo passed a constitution for Kosovo that is scheduled to come into force on 15 June. The constitution is designed in such a way that it would effectively remove from UNMIK its current powers as an interim civil administration. In this regard, the government of Kosovo has indicated that it would welcome a continued United Nations presence in Kosovo provided that it carries out only limited residual tasks.

8. In addition to these developments on the ground, on 18 February I received a letter from the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union informing me of the willingness of the European Union to play an enhanced role in the area of the rule of law in Kosovo within the framework provided by resolution 1244 (1999). Since then, the European Union has reiterated its readiness to deploy staff to Kosovo in the functional areas of police, justice and customs.

9. It is also my understanding that the European Commission has informed my Special Representative that it would end funding for operations of the economic reconstruction pillar of UNMIK (pillar IV) as from 30 June 2008. The Secretariat has informed the Commission that that decision did not benefit from consultations with United Nations Headquarters and that it left UNMIK without the technical capability or budgetary allocation to replace Commission-funded experts. In the meantime, the Kosovo government has passed legislation that comes into force on 15 June that effectively seeks to assume tasks and competencies currently carried out by pillar IV with regard to administrative authority over socially owned and publicly owned enterprises. This legislation, combined with the announced closure of pillar IV, effectively removes UNMIK authority and capacity to control those areas.